Collect Day #2, PRINCE WHIPPLE
O God, our true ruler and guide, we remember today Prince Whipple who sacrificed his life for the freedoms we all now enjoy: grant that as he and other black citizens petitioned bravely for the end of lifetime servitude in New Hampshire, that we may engage our public servants to end all discrimination so that “the name of slave may no more be heard in a land gloriously contending for the sweets of freedom;” who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
DAY #2, February 15, 2018
PRINCE WHIPPLE, The Child
(c. 1750 – 1796)
His father was respected by the people of the village because he was the king. The 10-year-old heir-apparent was growing up with the privileges of royalty, but he also learned how to interact comfortably with children whose families of workers, artisans and counselors provided continuity to traditions along the Gold Coast of western Africa during the 18th Century. Despite hearing whispered tales of mysterious abductions, this boy could not have imagined how one day in 1760 he would simply disappear from the lush hills of Aburi, becoming one of millions of Black youths taken by desperately poor White men with guns to a slave trading fort at the ocean where the terrified girls and boys would be sold to the highest bidder.
After surviving unspeakable horrors, the traumatized child-prince arrived on the opposite side of the world without family or documentation until this “one negro boy” was purchased and he recorded as taxable property belonging to William Whipple of Portsmouth in the Colony of New Hampshire. From that moment, the boy would be called Prince, perhaps because of his reputation as royalty. Or maybe it was his early childhood training to respect himself and to be respectful of others. Indeed, history shows that Prince was a man of distinction in military service during the Revolutionary War, as chief of protocol for civilian social functions, and in the evolving racial politics of Portsmouth when, at the age of 29, Prince Whipple, along with 19 other distinguished African men who had been enslaved since childhood, petitioned the newly declared independent state of New Hampshire to grant not only their personal freedom but to end slavery for all others in the state.
PRINCE WHIPPLE, The Adult
To celebrate being one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, General William Whipple, upon returning home to Portsmouth, planted a chestnut seed on the front lawn of his waterfront mansion. The historical record does not reveal what his body servant, Prince, was doing that day, but surely it was he who helped prepare the ground for that seedling, then watched it growing into the tree that continues today to live and spread its branches across the streetscape.
Prince, of Abori, West Africa, came to live in the mansion in 1760, purchased when he was ten years old by William Whipple, a ship’s captain and merchant. By 1777, Whipple had become a Brigadier General in command of the First New Hampshire Brigade and was sent to drive Burgoyne out of New York. Prince accompanied Whipple on that campaign as well as to Saratoga (1777) and Rhode Island (1787). For his service in these battles and ensuing bivouacs, Prince earned distinction as a Son of the American Revolution. Indeed, Prince proved to be an astute student of the Revolution and of the Declaration of Independence, becoming a trusted leader in the local Black community.
In 1779, Prince and 19 other African men, all enslaved and brought to Portsmouth when they were children, co-authored and submitted their own erudite freedom statement in the form of a petition to the New Hampshire government, asking that their lifetime of servitude be ended, “whereby we may regain our liberty and be ranked in the class of free agents and that the name of slave may not more be heard in a land gloriously contending for the sweets of freedom.” The state legislature tabled the petition and never acted on emancipation until 2014 when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill posthumously freeing the men.
On February 22, 1781 Prince married a freedwoman, Dinah Chase, in a ceremony performed by Dinah’s former owner, the Rev. Chase of Newcastle. Prince Whipple gained his freedom in 1784 and continued living with his wife and children in his own small house, overlooking the Whipple mansion’s flower gardens and the little chestnut tree.